The Johnny Depp Archive

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Starsgård, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun-Fat, Tom Hollander, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Keith Richards, Naomie Harris, Mackenzie Crook,

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

'Does he know what he's doing, or does he just make it up as he goes along?' So growls salty seadog Mr Gibbs as Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) embarks on another seemingly hare-brained yet actually fiendishly wily scheme. And much the same could have been said of the hotch-potch of pointless plot twists and interminable, expensive set pieces that constituted Pirates of the Caribbean 2. But as the buccaneering trilogy sails triumphantly into its third and final instalment, no doubt leaving a trail of broken box office records in its wake, it seems that lessons have been learnt.

For starters, after prat-falling his way through Dead Man's Chest like a hapless buffoon, my beloved Captain Jack Sparrow is back on top form: sharp as a tack, mad as a coot and cunning as a fox with a degree from the University of Cunning. And what's more – there's lots of him! Trapped in Davy Jones's locker, he's hallucinating an entire ship populated by Jack Sparrows in various states of undress (was that really in the film, or did I just dream it?). Of course it's not long (ish) before he's rescued by Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), by now both fully fledged pirates under the command of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who, you may remember, was brought back from the dead at the end of the last instalment by spooky voodoo queen Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris).

Chow Yun-Fat as Captain Sao-Feng and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

They've acquired a ship from Captain Sao-Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), a sinister Chinese Pirate Lord, and they're being pursued by the ruthless Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander), now in cohorts with Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and his ghost ship of barnacled fish people, which includes Will's father, Bootstrap (Stellan Skarsgåd).

Think it sounds a bit complicated? You ain't seen nothing yet. Nobody's motives for, well, anything, are entirely pure, and as for the crossing and double-crossing, what can I say? Other than: 'Pirates!'

Like its predecessor, At World's End is just a bit too long, but this time round there's not much time wasted. A misguided plotline about freeing the imprisoned sea goddess Calypso doesn't really work and ends up going nowhere, but on the whole, despite weighing in at a bum-numbing 168 minutes, there's not much excess fat on this lean, mean, piratical, money-making machine, and you'll find yourself utterly gripped by the action, sucked into the whole thing like a pirate ship into a maelstrom.

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

This, of course, is partly due to the fact that the film looks just fantastic. The CGI and special effects are so brilliantly and realistically done that you no longer notice they're there, while the fantastically constructed sets – from the seedy, opium-soaked back streets of 18th century Singapore to the chaotic ocean graveyard of Shipwreck Cove – are created with the same loving attention to detail that characterised Hobbiton or Edoras in the Lords of the Rings films. Everything about the styling is just perfect (the scene which brings together the nine Pirate Lords, for example, is a triumph of huge wigs, flamboyant frock coats and Oriental excess) - except for Keira Knightley, that is, who, with her perfect skin and GHD hair do, looks as if she's descended into the gnarly, grimy, decadent, pock-marked band of reprobates from another planet, like a page from Hello! inserted into a copy of Terrorizer.

Keira makes a brave attempt at carrying Elizabeth Swann from 'damsel in distress' (or 'distressing damsel', as Jack styles her) to ball-busting Pirate Lord with some degree of realism, but with so many big name actors hamming it up, you can smell the bacon emanating from the screen. Although in the end it's not even Johnny who steals the scene, but Captain Barbossa's cheeky little monkey – and Keith Richards as Jack's father, of course. Weighed down with jewellery and hair extensions, he looks about 160 – but that, of course, isn't anything to do with make-up…

But despite the fantastical trappings and bombastic, OTT performances, there is an interesting message at the heart of Pirates 3 about the relationship between myth and reality. This is, after all, the 18th century, the age of reason and enlightenment, when tensions between superstition and realism, faith and empiricism were at an all time high. So, while the Pirate Lords may triumph over the upstart, baby-faced, careerist company man Lord Cutler Beckett at the end of the film (oh come on, that's hardly a spoiler), his is the clean-shaven, face of the future. The red dawn of the French Revolution is on the horizon, and old-fashioned gents in long wigs and lace have had their day. Which is perhaps why (and this is a spoiler, so look away if you haven't seen the film yet) Will Turner, as the representative of a new generation of pirates, must retreat into the mythical realm of Davy Jones at the end of the film in order to survive.

Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

'The immaterial has become, well, immaterial,' Beckett smirks, and, as Cook, Bligh and the other great explorers of the day ensure that there are no longer any unchartered waters 'at world's end', so the age of the glamorous cut-throat pirate must come to an end (and, while it may not have looked exactly like the set of POTC, that age did exist – read Captain Charles Johnson's A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates if you don't believe me).

And so too must the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. It's been fun, but to make a fourth film would just be silly. This final blockbuster blow out has taken the swashbuckling, theme park ride froth of the first instalment and transformed it into a huge, jaw-dropping epic, but now it's time to say goodbye, to let Captain Jack Sparrow sail away into the sunset, magical compass in hand. Now that's freedom.

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